Language Of The Roman Empire

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Language of the Roman Empire

Language of the Roman Empire


The Latin language is officially classified by linguists as being one of the Italic groups of Indo-European languages. It was originally spoken by small numbers of people who lived on the Latium plain near the Tiber River in central Italy. It was related to Greek, Germanic, Celtic, and many other languages in Europe at the time. As the language of the city of Rome, its importance resulted from the rise of Rome and its domination first of Italy and then of the Mediterranean region, central and southern Europe, and much of the Near East.

At the foundation of Rome, according to tradition in 753 BCE, several related dialects were used in central Italy. Umbrian, Samnite (or Oscan), Volscian, and Marsian, for which inscriptions survive, all appear to differ from Latin slightly in inflections and pronominal roots, that is, the roots of pronouns. There are also many loan words from Etruscan, mainly technical and religious terms, as well as a large number of personal names, such as Sulla and Casca.


The Roman civilization was the last major ancient civilization before Europe and North Africa plunged into the Dark Ages. Modern Western civilization owes much to the Romans, including the influence of the Roman legal system, tactics in warfare, monumental architecture, the spread of Christianity, and the pax Romana-the peace of Rome. The Roman civilization was also one of the most enduring civilizations, lasting over 1,200 years.

The city of Rome lay north of the Greek colonies in southern Italy and south of the metal-producing cultures of Central Europe; thus, both cultures influenced it and traded with it. Furthermore, the city was far enough away from the sea to avoid pirates but sat at the first practical crossing of the Tiber River. Being located in the center of the Mediterranean Basin made Rome strategically located to be the capital of a Mediterranean/ European empire.

According to tradition, Romulus founded the city of Rome in 753 BCE. However, historians know little about the early history of Rome, except that it was a part of a collection of individual communities in Latium. During its early years, kings ruled Rome and established its political and religious institutions. Rome grew to be a prominent city, partially due to its geographic location, and eventually became the capital of Latium.

The oldest surviving example of Latin is a brief inscription of four words on a cloak pin in Greek characters. This shows that the full vowels were used in unstressed syllables, a system that changed gradually as the Latin language developed. The other early surviving Latin scripts show a stress accent on the first syllable of any word, whereas by the late republic the accent fell on the second or second-from-last syllable. Indeed, one of the striking features of Latin is the importance placed on accentuation.

As the Romans expanded their rule, with Latin as the language of administration, the use of the language became common throughout the empire. Roman citizens and many others became fluent ...
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